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Headlight Fluid is a troll bait used to send people on a chase for an item that doesn’t exist. Due to the varying levels of understanding in automobile maintenance among the general population, many people can be easily misled into believing that headlights need “fluid” to work.
Headlight Fluid was invented during a prank call made by Detroit’s Channel 955 radio DJ Spike which was originally featured as a segment on the AM radio show Mojo in the Morning and subsequently released on a compilation CD in May 2001. Titled “Clueless Auto Repair,” the call consisted of a person posing as a mechanic advising a woman on the state of her automobile repairs.
In addition to telling her she needs to replace her “headlight fluid,” a non-existent item, the man goes on to explain that her left tires and right tires somehow had switched sides and her transmission had been removed and she needed to replace it with two new ones. As early as August 2nd, 2002, an MP3 version of the call, now titled “The Mechanic,” was uploaded to eBaum’s World and made available to download.
The original MP3 file has been shared on several automotive message boards including JeepKings, F150 Online and CycleForums in 2003, the Ford Explorer Forum in 2004, and RX8Club in 2006.
In spring 2003, the RoosterTeeth web series Red vs. Blue mentioned headlight fluid in the first season, third episode titled The Rookies. In the video, a rookie Red character is sent on a snipe hunt to find elbow grease and headlight fluid; the character soon realizes that there is no such thing as “elbow grease,” an English idiom for putting extra effort into something, however continues searching for the headlight fluid.
Modeled on traditional military style of hazing known as Fool’s Errands, this episode was first uploaded to YouTube in April 2008. The term was first defined on Urban Dictionary on December 28th, 2005, directly quoting RoosterTeeth’s Red vs. Blue video.
As early as since August 2006, similar mentions of headlight fluid have been observed in over fifty Yahoo! Answers threads relating to legitimate questions about automobile maintenance, as well as numerous question posts on Tumblr.
In October 2009, Don’t Even Reply published a series of emails responding to a Craigslist ad, trying to use headlight fluid as bait to try to annoy the original poster.
A screenshot of a Facebook post convincing someone to use headlight fluid was posted to FunnyJunk on June 15th, 2011, where it received 1603 upvotes.
Yahoo! Answers – What is the difference between coolant and anti-freeze?